Galway city is buckling under the strain of chronic traffic congestion which is stifling city living and the economic growth of the wider region, a planning hearing has been told.
A meeting to discuss plans for the new Galway ring road was also told the approval of the €600m route is "crucial to safeguard the future development of the city".
The proposed 18km N6 Galway City Ring Road will run from Barna in the western region to the M6 on the east of the city. It will consist of 12km of dual carriageway and 6km of single lane and will require significant engineering works.
These include the development of a new bridge over the River Corrib, a tunnel structure beneath Lough Corrib, and a viaduct over a non-designated habitat in Menlo.
Additional engineering interventions will include a second viaduct structure extending from the River Corrib Bridge over the NUIG sports campus, and the development of a tunnel under Galway racecourse.
Construction of the proposed route will lead to the demolition of 44 houses and will impact a further 500 landowners and 11 businesses.
The report states that every effort was made to avoid property demolitions where possible. Still, avoidance of all properties was not possible, given the linear development of the city with housing along every road radiating out of the centre.
In total, 296 submissions and objections have been made to An Bord Pleanála. Over the next six weeks, the oral hearing will hear presentations from each party.
Among those who had raised an initial objection was Boston Scientific - the biggest employer in Galway city. However, this was withdrawn following consultation with planners.
Other businesses who have raised objections are NUIG, McHale Engineering, and the Connolly Motor Group.
Homeowners who will be subject to compulsory purchase orders are expected to raise the issue of fair compensation, with many understood to be unhappy with the proposed amounts on offer.
An Bord Pleanála rejected a previously proposed bypass on environmental grounds. Planners then unveiled six possible routes before the 18km ring road was selected.
Galway City Council says the project will take up to three years and will lead to a significant drop in journey times for motorists. Project Manager Eileen McCarthy, of engineering consultants Arup, told the hearing that many of the objections they have received agree there is a need for a transport solution to the existing congestion.
"They are not opposed in principle to the proposed road development, but object to the route chosen for various other reasons."
Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív said what Galway needs is better public transport and less use of private cars.
"We need rapid public transport in Galway," he said.
"We need walking and cycling. But to facilitate all of that, this detailed study, that was commissioned by the National Transport Authority and the local councils, says that you need a road to take traffic around the city."
Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton said she supported the project but will be making a submission, "highlighting the need for an integrated public transport system, an active travel network and fairness for householders affected."
She added: "It was 1999 when a ring road was first proposed for Galway. Traffic congestion has grown worse and long delays are commonplace for those visiting and living in Galway.
"For a relatively small city, congestion is far worse than it should be, principally due to its medieval origins.
"Reducing non-essential through-traffic choking the city centre is a priority.
"While the ring road is essential to the development of the city and surrounding areas, it must be accompanied by sustainable public transport."